When someone else’s negligent or intentional actions cause the death of someone you love, the consequences often go beyond emotional distress and grief over the sudden and unexpected loss. In addition to losing a person you love, you might also lose a critical source of income, a partner who shares household duties, and a caretaker for children or other dependents.
It can be especially devastating if a loved one dies unexpectedly due to another person or party’s negligence. But when this occurs, it may be possible to seek justice and fair compensation for your loss by filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
If you’re considering a wrongful death lawsuit, it’s natural to wonder, “Can damages for wrongful death be capped by Indiana law?” After all, how can you put a dollar value on the loss of someone’s life?
In Indiana, legislators have enacted multiple laws that regulate wrongful death lawsuits. To keep things fair for everyone involved, the amount of money available in an Indiana wrongful death lawsuit is subject to specific dollar limits known as “damage caps.”
The damage cap for wrongful death cases in Indiana is $300,000, plus costs for medical, hospital, funeral, and burial expenses.
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What Are the Limits for Wrongful Death Compensation in Indiana?
The damage caps for wrongful death lawsuits in Indiana can vary depending on the specifics of the case. When an unmarried adult 23 years or older with no dependents suffers a wrongful death, the maximum amount of compensation their estate may recover is $300,000, plus costs for medical, hospital, funeral expenses, and burial expenses. However, different damages caps may apply when:
- The deceased was a married adult or has dependents – If the wrongful death victim was married, had children, or had other dependents before they died, there is no cap on wrongful death compensation.
- The deceased was a child – Similarly, there are no compensation limits if the wrongful death victim was a child. Under Indiana law, a child is anyone under the age of 20 or an individual who is 23 years old or younger and enrolled in an academic program.
- The deceased was killed due to medical malpractice – If the wrongful death occurred due to medical malpractice, the damage cap is $1,800,000.
- The deceased was killed due to government negligence – If the wrongful death occurred due to government negligence, the maximum amount of compensation available from a government claim is $700,000.
How Does Indiana Define “Wrongful Death?”
Indiana law defines a “wrongful death” as any death that results from another party’s wrongful act, negligence, or intentional behavior. The most common causes of wrongful deaths are generally similar to the causes of many personal injuries, such as:
- Motor vehicle accidents – The violent energy of a car, truck, motorcycle, bicycle, or pedestrian accident can cause serious injuries that result in immediate or eventual death.
- Workplace accidents – According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the most common causes of workplace fatalities include transportation incidents, slips and falls, acts of violence, and contact with objects or equipment.
- Unsafe premises accidents – Unsafe premises could lead to fatal accidents, often caused by dangerous walkways, inadequate security, toxic exposure, unattended hazards, or unrestrained animals.
- Medical malpractice – When doctors, nurses, or other medical professional or medical providers are negligent, their malpractice can lead to deaths caused by infections, surgical errors, and other preventable tragedies.
- Unsafe product accidents – When consumer products such as household appliances, children’s toys, or pharmaceutical drugs are manufactured poorly, users can suffer fatal injuries or illnesses.
What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
When someone dies due to another party’s actions or failure to act, the survivors of the deceased can seek justice by filing a wrongful death lawsuit. A wrongful death suit is like a personal injury lawsuit for which the injured party is no longer available. Since the victim cannot recover compensation themselves, any money awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit goes to the victim’s estate.
When the victim’s estate recovers compensation, the money can only be distributed to certain parties. First, any creditors with valid claims against the deceased must be repaid. Once lenders and other creditors have been paid, the remaining money in the deceased’s estate is divided among eligible heirs.
Survivors may choose to pursue wrongful death lawsuits whether or not the at-fault party is facing criminal charges. If the at-fault party is convicted of criminal wrongdoing, they may be subject to fines, loss of privileges, or even jail time. Regardless of the outcome of any criminal case, the at-fault party can be held liable in a civil wrongful death case and ordered to pay compensation to the deceased’s estate.
Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Under Indiana law, only the personal representative of the wrongful death victim’s estate has the authority to file a wrongful death lawsuit. In most cases, the personal representative is the executor named in the victim’s will. Regardless of whether or not the victim left behind a valid will, any individual who wishes to serve as a personal representative must obtain approval from the court before administering the estate.
Although only the personal representative can file a wrongful death lawsuit, the representative is not necessarily the one who stands to recover compensation. State law only permits the following individuals to collect the money awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit:
- The surviving spouse of the deceased
- Any surviving children of the deceased
- Any surviving parents of the deceased
- Any other surviving dependents of the deceased
What Is the Statute of Limitations on Wrongful Death Lawsuits?
If you suspect you have grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit in Indiana, it’s essential to understand how the statute of limitations could impact your case. A statute of limitations is a law that limits the amount of time you have to take certain types of legal action.
In Indiana, the statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits is two years. If you attempt to file the lawsuit more than two years after your loved one dies, the court will most likely dismiss your case, and you will lose your right to claim compensation. That’s why it’s so important to work with a knowledgeable wrongful death attorney who understands the law and can keep your case on track.
Contact an Indiana Wrongful Death Attorney Today
At Truitt Law Offices, our wrongful death attorneys have over 40 years of experience helping those who’ve lost loved ones due to negligence seek answers, justice, and fair compensation. Contact our compassionate team today to learn more about your legal options in a free initial case review.